We take a break from 'Demonstrating Value' to think about 'Creating Value', and specifically how we can create more value from our activities during the holiday season. Here are five ideas:
1. Increase your impact when you give
Look for opportunities to buy locally. Associations like LOCO that promote local businesses are springing up in many places and have great directories. Research shows that buying from an independent business has significant local economic impacts. Beyond buying locally, you may get more social impact by also buying:
- from social enterprises (see social enteprise marketplace),
- gifts directly from their maker, for instance at farmers’ markets, art walks and artisan fairs,
- from not-for-profit places in your community that you may value, like museums, galleries and cultural centres. A 2008 survey of 113 Canadian museums and galleries found that earned revenues accounted 23% of total revenues. Another great place to buy gifts are university bookstores, which are really quiet and peaceful in the lead up to Christmas.
When it comes to social impact, also be mindful of the personal impact of buying a gift. Will your sister still love you if you buy a toy drum set for her child? Where will your friend put their bread-maker or juicer in their 500 sq ft. apartment? In all seriousness, consider how a gift will be used. If you are buying for kids, buy toys that do not differentiate boy or girl-specific play, and even better, buy from places that do not differentiate boy toys and girl toys.
An obvious suggestion for reducing the environmental impact of gifts is to not buy things at all. Instead buy a service / experience instead, or even buy ‘charitable gifts’, like a goat for a family through Oxfam (and others: more and more international non-governmental organizations are framing giving this way).
Buying and gifting smartly can also be helpful in reducing environmental impact. Consider buying from antique and other second-hand stores. From any store, include gift receipts to increase the chance of something being useful to the gift receiver. Also, cold, hard cash in a card has never gone unappreciated, and will likely be used more than a gift certificate.
Buy quality over quantity. Avoid buying something last minute, because you are more likely to buy anything to get out of the mall quickly with at least part of your sanity. Research products. For kid toys (and big kid toys) consider buying toys that do not need batteries, a significant contributor to toxic solid waste. Based on my research with my 3 year old, imagination and make believe goes a lot further than canned voices and flashing lights. More and more stores specialize in environmentally-friendly products, or at least stock some 'green' product lines.
2. Find a Christmas tree that gives more to community
Many service clubs, like the Lions club and Kiwanis club, have long been raising funds through Christmas tree sales. Newer organizations have also come onto the lot, like the popular Aunt Leah’s lots in the greater Vancouver area. While the trees don’t look any different from those in many other tree lots, the impact of buying from a trees can be very significant. For instance, over $100,000 was raised last year for Aunt Leah’s this way. This money went towards supporting women at risk of losing their children to foster care, and youth who are transitioning out of foster care, including one-on-one support, meals, basic needs items, micro-loans and housing. To learn about their impact, see their annual report.
If you are on the fence about buying a real tree versus an artificial one, here is an interesting blog in support of the environmental benefit of Christmas trees.
3. Give beyond the Foodbank
While Christmas has long been a time for raising awareness and donations for local foodbanks, it is also valuable to support organizations that are advocating and seeking to change what is driving people to need the foodbank in the first place. For instance, First Call is a B.C. based coalition that present unified, strong and respected voice for BC’s children and youth issues. It’s campaigns include A Living Wage for Families, a Child Poverty Report Card, and helping to successfully end the Child Support Claw back. Another idea is to buy a Hope in the Shadows calendar from one of 150 vendors. This amazing initiative combines artistic expression with providing seasonal employment for people impacted by poverty.
While these are B.C. specific examples, look for the initiatives happening in your community and internationally to address poverty.
4. Connect with your community
If you are Christian, connecting with your community through your church is integral to Christmas, as it is for people who are part of the other organized religions that observe festivals at this time of year. For others, there are many ways to connect to community beyond running into neighbours at the shopping mall. Become curious about what is going on locally to create a more inclusive and just community. Research volunteer opportunities. Attend a few local musical or theatre performances. Join in community celebrations in your neighbourhood. Stop and talk to somebody you might normally feel to rushed to notice.
5. Source catering that creates added value
Christmas season is party season, and food is integral to that. Catering is proving to be a popular choice for social enterprises that employ individuals with barriers to employment. In Vancouver alone, this form of social enterprise is opening the door for hundreds of people to gain valuable employment experience in a supportive work environment. Having both ordered from, and sampled many offering in Vancouver and beyond, I personally vouch for price competitiveness and product quality! So when you are ordering catering for Christmas parties and events into the New Year, think social enterprise. The social enterprise marketplace directory offers a great starting place to look for catering near you.